Noel eases off Jets

Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel gestures to the referee during the third period of their NHL...

Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel gestures to the referee during the third period of their NHL hockey game against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Winnipeg Feb. 7, 2012. (REUTERS/Fred Greenslade)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:50 PM ET

WINNIPEG - Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel continued to ease off the gas pedal, Tuesday, the morning after his team looked tired in losing, 5-3, to Edmonton.

Perhaps a dozen players took part in an optional skate, among them defenceman Zach Bogosian, who could return from an undisclosed injury in a critical game, Thursday, against Florida.

The rest got some rest after the Jets turned in a sloppy, unemotional performance against the Oilers, culminating in a four-goal, third-period collapse.

“All I know is that in talking with the players, they didn’t have much,” Noel said. “You try to manage this stuff. We’re not going to change very much. We’re going to try to pour everything we can into the games. That’s really what we have to do.

“And we’re going to have to try to manage the time around the games as best we can. I’ll have to make sure I get feedback from the players and make sure we deal with this intelligently.”

The Jets have played 65 games, more than any other NHL team, going into Tuesday night.

“Goodness, some teams have got five games in hand on us,” the coach said. “Boston’s played 60 games. It’s like, when are they gonna play those?”

Noel had given his players the day off, Sunday, in the hope they’d have energy for Monday’s game.

Going into the third period, up 2-1, Noel wasn’t sure which way his team was going to go.

“How am I going to get us to play a solid 20 minutes?” he recalled thinking. “I didn’t have any comfort there. I thought to myself, ‘How are we going to get this across, here?’ And then, boom, we’re down, 3-2. So whatever I was thinking didn’t work.”

Thursday’s game is crucial in that Florida, playing Toronto tonight, leads Winnipeg by two points in the Southeast Division and has four games in hand.

Conference rivals Washington and Ottawa are also in action tonight.

The Jets are in eight place in the East, one up on the Capitals and three ahead of the Leafs.


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